Restocking the Freezer
October 22nd, 2012
In preparation for our move to Kentucky this spring, we totally “ate down” our chest freezer, emptying it of all the soups, casseroles, and forlorn forgotten packages of miscellaneous meats that had accumulated there. I confess that I hadn’t found the motivation to restock since we’ve gotten settled here but today was The Day.
I often freeze meal components — like marinated meat — but this time I wanted to focus on complete meals. Things I could pull out of the freezer, pop in the oven, and be done. Thus, casseroles. A few weeks ago, I’d been seduced by a Southern Living magazine featuring casseroles and all my recipes came from there.
I’ve discovered that most casserole recipes are quite big and that anything which calls for baking in a 9×13 pan can easily be split into two 8×8 pans. That is just about the right size for my family, and an 8×8 cake pan fits beautifully into a gallon ziplock freezer bag for easy storage.
I made five different recipes and ended up with eleven meals socked away downstairs. They include:
- Southwest Chicken Mac & Cheese
- Chicken Tetrazzini
- Chicken and Corn Pot Pie
- Chili Bake with Hash Browns
- Old Fashioned Hamburger Casserole
My total grocery bill for the casserole ingredients was about $56 which works out to just over $5 per meal. There’s no way I could feed my family of four on that if we ate out!!
To cut down on prep time (and to save money), I bought a whole chicken and cooked it in the crock pot over night so it was ready to roll in the morning.
My big stock pot was in pretty much constant use, boiling various pastas, and in the midst of things I chopped a bunch of onions in my food processor and froze them to save on future prep time. I also roasted, pureed, and froze a few pounds of butternut squash…just because I like to have it on hand.
A couple of recipes — like the chili bake — couldn’t be completely assembled. The chili bake calls for putting frozen hash browns on top and they’re not supposed to thaw first so I couldn’t put them on the casserole. Ditto the cheese you sprinkle on at the end. But I measured out the potatoes and cheese, put them in individual bags, and froze them together with the casserole itself so I can assemble everything easily when the time comes.
Altogether, I spent about five hours on the project, including kitchen cleaning, a quick trip to the store for more heavy duty aluminum foil, a few work-related emails, and a brief conference call with my printer about a fundraising appeal I’ve been working on (have I mentioned that I love working from home??).
Definitely time well spent.
If you’re interested in trying out freezer cooking, one of my favorite bloggers is doing a series on “31 Days of Freezer Cooking” with lots of tutorials and best-practices.